Celebrating Women Refugees
By Gracey Zostant, FCRH ‘22
In celebration of Women’s History Month, below are the stories of a few women who have channeled their experiences as refugees into positive messages of strength and empowerment.
Miriam Makeba was a prominent singer, born in South Africa in 1932. Makeba sought asylum in the US and was influential in the “Black is Beautiful’’ aesthetic movement of the 1960’s. The South African government revoked her citizenship after her appearance in 1950’s anti-apartheid documentary Come Back Africa, and years after she testified to the UN against the aparthei-era administration. She continued recording global hits like “Pata Pata” and advocating against apartheid government until 1989 when her citizenship was revoked. She returned to South Africa in 1990, and received several awards for her activism and cultural influence.
Loung Ung is a Cambodian-American writer, speaker, and activist, best known for her works Lucky Child and First They Killed My Father. The latter was eventually developed into a Netflix Original directed by Angelina Jolie, of which Ung was a co-writer. Ung was born in 1970 in Cambodia, and now she also holds tours, speaking to people all over the globe about her experiences as a child in Cambodia during the Cambodian genocide. Her talks cover resiliency, her experiences as a refugee, and human rights issues, among other subjects. She discusses the use of writing as a way to reclaim your story and overcome trauma. She has since visited Cambodia and actively participates in human rights advocacy initiatives.
Malak Matar is a 22 year old artist from Palestine. Matar learned to use artwork as an emotional outlet and coping strategy during the Israeli military assaults along the Gaza strip in 2014. She spent her childhood attending different United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, and now attends Istanbul Aydin University, studying political science and international relations. Matar cites Pablo Picasso and Frida Khalo as sources of artistic inspiration. Although she has had no formal artistic training, several of her pieces have been showcased internationally and she hopes to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in the US in the future.